Scandinavian ABC

So, you´ve been planning to move to Scandinavia and let´s face it, leaving everything behind in order to chase your life goals and dreams is not such a tiny, insignificant choice to make. You might move for different reasons, perhaps an overseas job that requires your presence here or maybe you want to attend university or follow a specific course. In any case, here are 5 to-know facts you should be prepared to experience while in Sweden, 5 inalienable and fundamental traits of the perfect Scandinavian.

  1. Ska vi fika? After more than seven months on Scandinavian soil, I´m still looking for the most rigorous way to interpret the word “Fika”. It could be translated into English with the expression “coffee break”, but that´d be a tremendous understatement. Fika means catching up with your friends or colleagues in one of the million coffee shops that are scattered everywhere in Sweden, from stunning cities such as Stockholm and Gothenburg to small villages in the remote countryside. Anyways, coffee is the central part of the Swedish fika, and neither tea nor decaffeinated coffee (Sacré bleu!) are permitted, at least if you want to follow the rules, thing that I strongly recommend you to do while in Sweden. Still, you´re allowed to add something sweet to your Fika, so why not try a typical Kanelbulle (cinnamon roll)?
  2. Lagom. And talking about untranslatable words, the Swedish “lagom” needs an accurate explanation. Lagom is the “right amount” or “balance” of something, neither too little nor too big, neither too dark nor too bright. Be careful though! Lagom mustn´t be confused with words such as sufficient, acceptable or enough, as they express some kind of lack or scarcity, whereas lagom is usually related to a positive connotation. Just remember the Swedish proverb “Lagom är bäst” , to the letter “the right amount is best”, and you´ll never be wrong!
  3. Lördagsgodis och Fredagstacos. Exceptions aside, Swedes are organized people, who like to plan carefully their days. This is probably the origin of the “Saturday Sweets” and “Friday Tacos”, as nobody eats them on different occasions. Useless to wonder why, just accept it.
  4. Keep a low profile. This is the general guideline everyone in Scandinavia should follow in order to be accepted and/or not be considered crazy by the average population. Nevertheless, different rules apply to different situations, and even though going through all of them could sound annoying, needs must! First and foremost, you ought to learn how to introduce yourself. If you meet someone for the first time, a commune and polite handshake is always an evergreen; still, this gesture won´t be repeated the second time you bump into that person, as Swedes are generally informal and down to earth. Instead, it is necessary to drink in the odd practique of the “Swedish hug”, just a short human contact which do not include any kisses or mawkishness. Then, two other major national social etiquettes include taking off your shoes when you step into a Swede´s house and the art of queuing. Upon the first point, just do it without questioning why or how, since World War Three could break out if you do not follow this simple and plain rule. Finally the queues: Scandinavian people queue everywhere and little ticket machines found in shops undoubtedly help this habit. You cannot cheat when it comes to queues, never ever ever. Just patiently wait for your turn, no matter whether you are at the bus stop or at the local deli.
  5. Butter, bread, jam and cheese. You might think, what´s uncanny when it comes to innocent, everyday products? Well, just the tiny particular that Scandinavian people are literally obsessed by them. A million different varieties of butter exist, from the salty and extra-salty ones used during dinner time to the normal and sweet ones for breakfast. Crisp bread is a national hero in northern Europe, especially in Sweden where a canon law concerning the right way to butter it lives and breathes. In fact, crisp bread´s got two sides: a flat one for ordinary “buttering” and a bubbly one for Sundays. Jam and cheese is then an undiscussed combo, above the mark when it comes to strawberry jam and cheddar.

So, what now? Just pack up your worries and be the perfect Scandi! 😀


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